Originally created 01/23/04

AT&T Wireless says it will entertain takeover bids



NEW YORK -- AT&T Wireless put itself up for sale on Thursday, confirming it has received numerous takeover bids.

The nation's third largest cell phone operator did not disclose the names of any bidders, which according to sources at both AT&T Wireless and its various suitors include Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless, NTT Docomo of Japan, Vodafone of Britain and Nextel Communications.

Official bids are said to have been received from Cingular and NTT Docomo, which already owns a 17 percent stake in AT&T Wireless.

Based on the company's share price, which has surged more than 35 percent to $10.99 in less than two weeks amid takeover speculation, AT&T Wireless has a market value of nearly $30 billion.

Industry observers expect that even more bidders may be tempted by AT&T Wireless' 21.9 million subscribers, which includes a sizable base of corporate clients who tend to use more services and spend more money.

The company said Merrill Lynch & Co. and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz have been retained as advisors to the Board in the evaluation.

In a statement, the company said, "significant interest from a number of other companies, as well as global and domestic industry dynamics, led to the Board's decision" to explore a buyout.

However, the statement noted, "there can be no assurance that any transaction will occur."

In light of the announcement, AT&T Wireless postponed its annual analyst meeting, which was scheduled for January 27 in New York City. The company said the analyst meeting will be rescheduled "at a later date as appropriate."